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Safe, Simple and Sustainable Pharmaceutical Packaging

Easier use and safer design has been observed widely in the pharmaceutical packaging industry. There are many considerations that pharmaceutical packaging has to balance of. Above simple issue such as developing good design and communicating with customer, pharmaceutical packaging designers are influenced by more pressing issue including to fight off counterfeiting, to encourage patient compliance, to ensure drug integrity and to balance child resistance and accessibility for the elderly. Because of these many challenges, pharmaceutical firms become some of the industry’s leading innovators. There are some main trends seen in pharmaceutical packaging will be explained in the following.


First is unit-dose packaging for greater dosage control. Unit-dose packaging including vials, ampoules, pre-fillable syringes and premixed IV solution are driving growth in aseptic packaging market in US. With greater focus on outpatient care and self-regulation medicine, it must be more imperative for patients to take the right medication in the right amount.  

Second is packaging against counterfeiting. It is estimated by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that there is 10% counterfeit drugs among all medication in USA. In European Union, it is believed that the presence of counterfeit drugs circulated in the countries is between 1% and 3%. These may threaten global pharmaceutical industry. Packaging can help to ease this problem with technologies such as holograms, inks, dyes, watermarks and track and trace technologies that utilize barcoding and RFID. The most advanced development is fluorescent labels packaging with laser surface authentication which can be identified through a unique code and near field communication (NFC) tags.

Third is non-invasive permeation testing. Barrier testing is crucial in development of pharmaceutical packaging such as blister packs to ensure that no oxygen has permeated the package and cause corruption to the therapeutic inside. This test is normally done by invasive testing or time-consuming-off-site methods, in which both of them are not ideal. A new technology has been developed by Mocon’s OpTech-O2 permeation testing system which is a non-invasive and non-destructive blister pack testing for flexible and rigid packaging materials. This is a cost-effective alternative for pharma manufacturers to guarantee that their products are safely packed. The mechanism is by incorporating optic sensor, which uses fluorescence to give off light when contacts with oxygen present in the blister.

Fourth is child-resistant (CR) packaging. This feature is seen in form of safety cap on bottles that has to be pushed down before opening. More advanced CR is also seen in blister packs and cardboard packaging. Many new CR packaging concepts are utilizing more complex and sophisticated opening system. For instance, UK’s packaging producer Burgopak’s sliding CR blister pack can only be opened by applying pressure at both separate points on the packaging.

Fifth is eco-friendly pharmaceutical packaging. Environmental friendliness aspect of the packaging in pharmaceutical industry must not lead to any compromise on package’s safety or accessibility. Developed by Keystone Folding Box Company and Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging in 2011, a sustainable compliance packaging, Ecoslide-RX, is made from 100% recycled material, using unbleached paperboard and a clay-coated surface used to design blister packaging with a minimum of unsustainable foil and film. In addition, the slide package also meets the required child-resistance and accessibility for seniors however does not require heat sealing hence reducing both cost and energy usage.

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